In a recent review of Japanese prints at the Clark I suggested that we are all waiting for an exhibition to explore the “descendants of Japanese ukiyo-e imagination, like manga comic forms leading to anime.” Well, here it is: “Repro Japan: Technologies of Popular Visual Culture.” It was just across town all this time at the Williams College Museum of Art.
And it’s wonderful: Kimono print design, individual cels from anime movies, photographs from cosplay performances, vintage ukiyo-e prints, and much more ferment in a tightly packed gallery with enough layers and associations to keep your head turning. While the title divines that technology underlies the propagation of these diverse forms, there is another deeper current: the human body. From figures depicted in 19th Century prints to fanciful fashion (in depiction and in fact) to types and archetypes seen in Japanese animation, there is the essence of humanity and character throughout. Sometimes it’s insightful, sometimes it amounts to style, or stylization, but it all pertains and comes back around.